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Near site of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a shattered town and scattered lives via The Washington Post

Noboru Honda lost 12 members of his extended family when a tsunami struck the Fukushima prefecture in northern Japan nearly eight years ago. Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer and initially given a few months to live. 

Today, he is facing a third sorrow: Watching what may be the last gasps of his hometown.

For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But so far, hardly anyone has ventured back.

Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart.


Its charm offensive is also tied up with efforts to restart the country’s nuclear-power industry, one of the world’s most extensive networks of atomic power generation.

Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be staged in Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city, and the Olympic torch relay will start from here.

But in Namie, much closer to the ill-fated nuclear plant, that celebration rings hollow, residents say.


Just 873 people, or under 5 percent, of an original population of 17,613 have returned. Many are scared — with some obvious justification — that their homes and surroundings are still unsafe. Most of the returnees are elderly. Only six children are enrolled at the gleaming new elementary school. This is not a place for young families.

Four-fifths of Namie’s geographical area is mountain and forest, impossible to decontaminate, still deemed unsafe to return. When it rains, the radioactive cesium in the mountains flows into rivers and underground water sources close to the town.


Greenpeace has been taking thousands of radiation readings for years in the towns around the Fukushima nuclear plant. It says radiation levels in parts of Namie where evacuation orders have been lifted will remain well above international maximum safety recommendations for many decades, raising the risks of leukemia and other cancers to “unjustifiable levels,” especially for children.


But many residents say the central government is being heavy handed in its attempts to convince people to return, failing to support residents’ efforts to build new communities in places like Nihonmatsu, and then ending compensation payments within a year of evacuation orders being lifted. 


Komatsu says reconstruction has been imposed from above, a problem he says reflects, in a broader sense, what Japan is like. 

“We are going through a second sense of loss because this is not the reconstruction we wanted,” he said.

Read more at Near site of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a shattered town and scattered lives 

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3 Responses

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  1. nfield says

    “Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city”: do Washington Post reporters simply take Olympics sales-pitches at face value? Even the Prefectural government site on radiation levels doesn’t indicate that Fukushima City is “radiation-free.” Far from it.Fukushima City is toward the top of the map, showing 0.14microsievert/hour. (Why this map isn’t translated into English on an English-language site is another question.) That entire, “central” corridor has Fukushima’s major cities with government and commercial facilities, not to mention the bullet train. Shutting that down was evidently too daunting.

  2. Rokn Elawael says

    Really great and useful post, thanks for sharing.
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